In Greek, the word philanthropy means “love of humanity.” Given this definition, one could logically think that people from all over would be excited to become fundraisers. When asked to help with a fundraising project, people would leap for the chance to do something so important, amazing, and beautiful.
But I have heard too many major donors hurt by aggressive fundraising. This is the type of fundraising that says, “All you are is a check to me… So get writing so we can get this over with.” No wonder it is hard to recruit volunteers to help with fundraising.
When fundraising is done right, there should be no “ick.” When done right, I’ve actually had donors thank me for asking for and taking their money. The conduit from “ick” to “love of humanity” requires genuinely getting to know your donor’s interests, passions, worries, and needs. There are many ways to do this, but here is one strategy of building common ground.
Be interested in their work. When I worked with a potential major donor who owned a car dealership, I got to know the car brands he sold. What kind of cars did they produce this year? What kinds of challenges is the car industry facing? How is the auto industry doing? What’s innovative in that industry? By researching that, I was able to speak my donor’s language and take a step into his world.
Here are some ways you can connect with your current or potential donors:
- Ask to take a tour of their business. Generally, people love to show off what they do and where they work. I have seen all sorts of businesses this way and learned a great deal.
- Research what they do for a living. What’s it like to be a doctor/environmentalist/financial advisor/etc.?
- Make a list of five questions you’d like to ask them about their life before you meet with them.
- Develop a few talking points about their business.
It’s a much different experience when you’re asked for a donation from someone who has taken time to know you rather than someone just looking for a check. It’s interesting to see how these conversations create opportunities to explore the donor’s passions and interests, and how they intersect with the mission of your agency.
When you’re genuinely seeking relationships instead of just dollars, fundraising become the beautiful thing it actually is. Only then can you truly spread the love of humanity.